The (Mostly) Public Bus Guide to Hiking Crete’s Gouverneto and Katholiko Monasteries

Hello, hikers–yes, of course you should do the famous Samaria Gorge hike, but find time in your visit to Crete for this amazing hike–two monasteries and a fabulous sea cove on the peninsula northeast of the city of Chania.

Worth the sweaty hike to find these hidden treasures.

It’s rugged and the scenery is outstanding. You won’t have it to yourself, but you’ll see far fewer fellow hikers than on the Samaria Gorge. Bring along your swimsuit and take a dip in a perfect little cove of clear blue-green water, just the right temperature in the middle of a sunny, sweaty hike in early November.

The perfect dip.

The distance from the Gouverneto Monastery down to the cove is about 3 miles. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s rocky and steep–a challenge needing good hiking shoes and sturdy knees.

Supervising goats.

How to Hike It

  1. Take the first bus leaving Chania to the airport. Buy a roundtrip to the airport, with the return ticket’s time open. If it’s summer, the earlier the better. You’ll want to get a significant portion of your hiking done before the heat of the day. We did our hike in November, and when our alarm went off to catch the early bus (7am), we hit the snooze and caught the next one (at 9:30am). This was fine and we loved our excursion, but I think we would have thanked ourselves if we went earlier. When we arrived at the cove there was just one other couple, but as we enjoyed our sandwiches and then went for a swim, more and more fellow hikers/swimmers arrived. If we’d rolled out of bed sooner, I’m fairly certain we would have had the cove to ourselves for a while. Note: it’s a good idea to stay in the city of Chania on your exploration of Crete, as you can go just about everywhere on a reliable, clean pubic bus from the central station for an inexpensive fare.
  2. When you get to the airport (in about half an hour), get a cab to the Gouverneto Monastery. Cabs are not cheap on Crete–this fare was €15 for a few minutes in the cab. You could, of course, walk the 4 miles to the monastery–and we did, in fact, walk it on the way back. But I still suggest that you get that first cab; while the walking route is delightful for about two miles near the monastery, it’s along the dusty, trash-strewn shoulder of a very busy thoroughfare near the airport. We did it and it was fine, but not great. If you’d like to get the cab one way (as we did), get it at the airport where it’s fast and simple to find one. Calling a cab to come get you at the monastery would be tricky as cell phone coverage was spotty, and it could be more expensive. Another option would be to have the cab take you just to the Agia Triada Monastery–that would get you past the unpleasant shoulder walk, and from there you could walk up the hill on a much quieter road to Gouverneto.
  3. Begin your hike from Gouverneto. While the monastery was closed on the day we were there, the gate was open. At the gate, a sign tells visitors that because it is holy ground we must wear modest clothing, must not picnic, and must not swim in the cove. Alas, we broke the last two of those rules (as did everyone else out there). We did not seem to incur celestial wrath, but your mileage may vary. We strolled along a path at the side of this working monastery to a trail of rock steps on the other side. Walk on to enjoy a fantastic cave with alters and stalagmites and the gorgeous, haunting ruins of the Katholiko Monastery tucked into the cliff sides.
  4. Find the trail to the cove at the far end of the Katholiko Monastery, on the other side of the rock bridge. The trail marking is a red stripe between two white stripes, painted onto nearby rocks. Keep going down the gorge, supervised by intrepid goats chomping the shrubs on rocky outcrops high above. Be sure to stop occasionally to enjoy the excellent acoustics created by the surrounding cliff walls; as birds of prey swooped across the gorge, we heard the flap of their wings.
  5. Enjoy the cove. It’s delightfully unspoiled–no toilets, no food or water, no sandy beach. You’ll need to bring your lunch in your backpack, and tuck behind a boulder to get into your swimsuit. Dive into the clear, surprisingly deep water. While we paddled around, a French family snorkled and a few German teenagers climbed the rocks to leap into the pool. There were plenty of people around, but not so many that it felt crowded. The cove felt like a secret we’d discovered together.
  6. Hike back. It’s all uphill. Leave time and plenty of water for this part.
  7. Walk back. When you reach Gouverneto, keep on down the curving mountain road, past the monument in remembrance of the seven monks killed during the Ottoman invasion in 1821. Reach the Agia Triada Monastery (which you may enter for a small fee), then carry on walking past a sheep ranch and through an olive grove. Keep an eye on the traffic as you shuffle through the last, rugged bit on the side of dusty, busy road.
  8. Get the bus back to Chania. The bus picks up at a clearly marked stop just outside the small terminal.
So many of these fastastic cave dwellings/chapels to explore.

As wonderful as the Samaria Gorge was, this hike was even more rewarding. Each segment revealed something interesting and beautiful, and there aren’t as many other hikers doing it with you. The balance of hiking both uphill and downhill is nice, too, in contrast to Samaria’s all downhill. If you hike this one, let me know about it in the comments.

On the walk down, in afternoon light.

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